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Sweet, sweet fantasy. It’s a genre that takes us further than just a day trip to the beach. While just the concept of imagining a completely different world beyond the one we occupy is enough to get me hooked, fantasy books also often ask questions about humanity, foster community and tell stories of ingenuity and hope.
If you’re looking for a real-deal summer escape, this is the list for you.
What it’s about: Zélie is a young girl living in the land of Orïsha, where residents are generated by spirits to wield special magic powers. An empire soon takes over and robs the citizens of their magic. Zélie must then use her power of communicating with ancestors in hopes of taking back the empire. And that's just book one in this three part series.
Why you should read it: Adeyemi came out of the gate with this stellar debut after graduating from Harvard, and she was soon praised as the next great fantasy writer of our time. She lives up to the hype — and then some. World building is a tough feat, but Adeyemi taps into something special by mixing her Nigerian roots with fantasy, folklore and magic. I’d also like to add that after a bidding war between studios, this book is being fast-tracked to the big screen with Adeyemi adapting her own book, writing the script and producing the film for Paramount Pictures. You may want to read it before it hits theaters.
What it’s about: Lark, the last crusader for the Fellowship of the Anointed (which supposedly kills monsters), learns that the organization he's worked so hard for is all a scam. When the FBI arrests the leader of the Fellowship, Lark runs away with a new friend in hopes of finding his own magical powers and working through the tragedies of his life.
Why you should read it: I can’t be the only person who goes through an obsession with cults every couple of years, can I? This Harvard Divinity School grad has built a fantasy world within our real world that explores a cult community, queerness and harnessing one’s power against our own internal monsters.
What it’s about: A new kind of Ku Klux Klan's reign of terror across the nation targets those most vulnerable: Black folks in the area. That is, until Maryse Boudreaux, a sword-wielding monster hunter, gets ahold of them and sends them straight to Hell. (Yes, these Klan members are literal monsters. NPR describes them as "pale, pointy-headed beings existing alongside human members of the Klan.") Maryse and her small team of Klan crushers must stop a horrific ritual in Georgia to save herself and the community.
Why you should read it: This fantasy novella mixes horrific history with speculative fiction, which Clark is known for. Clark, who resides in New England, is both an academic historian AND an award-winning fantasy writer. The world he creates in "Ring Shout," along with the ones he has built in his slew of other published works, are of the fantastical variety, but end up feeling a lot closer in proximity to the world we occupy today.